Understanding and Dealing With Anger Biblically
Anger is a feeling of displeasure at events in our lives or at the behavior of others that causes tension and often an attitude of hostility toward the offender. Anger in itself is not wrong. In fact it can sometimes be helpful. Anger can arouse courage and master fear to enable a soldier to overcome his enemy or to enable a journalist to expose corruption.
Like all emotions, anger can be constructive or destructive. It is destructive if it harms someone, either ourselves or someone else.
It is constructive if it leads us to take action to resolve or improve a situation. If we suppress our anger, we hurt ourselves; if we let it explode, we hurt others.
Occasions for Anger
One of the most common occasions for anger is offensive behavior by others. Injustice and oppression can provoke us to anger, but so can nice people who get in our way or interfere with our plans. Sometimes anger is our response to what someone said or did to us.
A person may become angry over the lack of deserved praise or gratitude or a promotion. There are many occasions for anger, but most stem from interference with our will and desires, which results in pain or insult or threat. We can even become angry with ourselves for doing something wrong or stupid, so that we feel like beating our head against the wall as just punishment for our folly.
Symptoms of Anger
There are half dozen words for anger in the Bible.
Two types of Anger:
Bad Anger: Anger is wrong when it is directed against a fellow Christian and leads to hostility and a desire to see him punished or humiliated. Whenever anger leads to harm or a desire to harm, it is wrong. (Prov 29:11, 20, 22, Matt 5:21–22)
Good Anger: The Bible says: “In your anger do not sin (Eph 4:26)”. This means that it is possible to continue to feel anger without giving in to sin. There are many biblical examples of legitimate anger expressed by God’s people, such as Jacob’s anger in Gen 30:1–2, Moses’ anger in Numb 16:14–15, John 2:16–17 (Jesus at the temple)
Managing and Counseling "Anger"
As we attempt to solve the problem of anger, we should follow these guidelines.
1. Recognize the existence of anger and strive to control it. (Ephesians 4:26 Psalm 37). The Bible tells us that God is slow to anger, and James tells us to be the same: ‘Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires’ (James 1:19, 20) Proverbs 29:11 also reminds us that anger can be controlled:
2. We must identify the occasion for our anger. (Jonah 4:1–4). We must identify the real cause of our anger, the issue or the problem – not the person who caused our anger, but the issue rose by that person. Then we can address that issue rather than the person. Even though the person may be responsible for the issue, our intention as Christians regarding that person must be to help him rather than punish him. The issue should be addressed separately. Sometimes other angry people encourage or promote our anger. The Bible says to avoid such people, so that your own anger does not get worse (Proverbs 22:24–25).
3. After determining the source of our anger, we must interpret it in the light of God’s will. Whatever the issue may be, put it in the context of God’s providence toward you and recognize it as part of His training program for you to learn to trust Him and to submit to His will, whatever the situation is, and to love whoever is the source of this problem in your life.Our enemies are really not physical, but spiritual (Eph 6), and we defeat them by faith in the Holy Spirit and by the use of God’s Word and prayer. “Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs” (Proverbs 10:12).
4. We must focus our attention on the Lord. We can channel the energy of anger into physical exercise such as running or swimming, which is a good thing to do in the short-term. But in the long-term, spiritual exercise is more effective. Spend regular times meditating on God’s forgiveness toward you through the cross of Christ, and seek to experience that forgiveness anew so you can share it with the source of your anger.
Conclusion: The battle with sinful anger is not easy, but it is possible to win the battle if we train ourselves to recognize and control the anger God’s way; identify its cause; re-interpret it in the light of God’s will; and re-focus our attention on God’s undeserved love, kindness, and forgiveness toward us.
© 2008 Christian Youth Counseling Ministry.